Well, we made it! We have finally managed to complete the excruciatingly stressful sale of Lyrowall, purchase and then removal to Monivey, Stromness. And there's a tale to be told . . .
The sale of our fab beach-side cottage in South Ronaldsay happened really quickly. In fact, having decided that promoting the sale of my house via my website was pretty much a complete waste of time (I've never even sold a painting through that particular medium, so it was always a bit unlikely that I would sell a house that way!!!) and plumping for the time-tested method of using (arghhh!) Estate Agents, the house only took two weeks to sell. And that just before the market came a-crashing down. Very lucky, in many respects. The fact that the people buying the house liked my most recent acrylic painting (red-throated divers) may have helped. The fact that I mentioned that the painting could stay where it was IF their offer to buy the house was satisfactory, may also have have had an influence – whatever, they liked the place and we shook hands there and then.. We then put in an offer on a house in St Margaret's Hope (the local village) which was accepted immediately. We were later to find out why . . .
Calling in many favours, we got the offer officially approved and set a completion date for the purchase (the point of no return) and also persuaded the people buying our house to move that completion date forward so we could have the money from the sale in our account ready to pay for the new house. Tipperty-top!
However, we soon ran into a few problems. Our solicitors found out that as the house had flooded, we may not get insurance and, as it was built in the mid 1600s, it was also understandably listed. But what we didn't realise was that we couldn't even build a conservatory on it (essential due to the small size of the existing accommodation). The final straw came when we discovered the amount of grant aid which had gone into the renovation of the building – staggering. Unfortunaltely (or fortunately whichever way you look at it) my mate had been the agent for the renovation and, when I asked him for the keys to do some measuring up, his reply was - “No effer's getting the keys to that house until I get paid!”
“How much you owed, Paul?” I ask him. £38,000 was his reply.
The implications were immense for us and we, fairly understandably, pulled out immediately. Great, that leaves us with no-where to go and officially homeless in two weeks time.
We knocked on every door in the village for the chance to rent or buy . Nothing. Then Sally decided we would have to take a look at a house which I already knew. I did a painting for the owner last year, but I hadn't taken much notice when she (Helen) had told me it was going on the market. Anyway it had no land so what about the horse and chickens and our old boy Jacob the mongrel labXcollie – now 17 years old. Well, needs must and all that, so we went to see the house anyway – divine. Agonising decision to be made and heartbreakingly, Tessa, our Clydesdale, just has to go. We vet a couple of homes for her, but soon find the perfect home. She went within the week. Conveniently they also agreed to having the chickens too, so that left us without any livestock at all- the first time in a decade.
Our offer on the house was rejected! F*ck, f*ck, f*ck!!!
Nothing else to do, I'm afraid – so it was, with more than a little trepidation that we agreed we would have to stay with my Mother-In-Law until something came up, which at this rate could be quite some time.
Four days before we had to get out of the house, I receive a call from a friend. His ex-wife was friends with Helen, the girl selling the Stromness house. She's moved to Fife and could do with a quick sale and she is willing to be a bit more flexible with the price. Sally and I raid the kids piggy banks and look behind the cushions on the settee – nothing! Last resort and Sally phones her big sis for a little bit of help (we don't need much, but if you haven't got it, you just haven't got it!). She comes up trumps and we bang in a slightly higher offer – which Helen accepts!!! She even agrees to let us rent the house until the sale is finalised, but it still means a week with Ma-In-Law, but at least there's light at the end of the tunnel.
Two days before we have to be out of the house and, saddest thing – Jacob dies. He's very old and has deteriorated rapidly over the past ten days (I know how he feels). I actually think he knew we were off and just couldn't be arsed with it. So he stayed where he was and died. I buried him beside his little brother Oliver, who died last year (while I painted a little watercolour of a lapwing, to take my mind off his passing). They will lie side by side under the willow trees on a hillside garden in South Ronaldsay, hopefully forever. For the first time in over 17 years I don't have a mate to walking with – very strange feeling!
But life goes on and we have to get the kids organised with new house, new school and new friends – plus explaining that this also means leaving the old ones behind. Gradually they come round to the idea (they love the house, which is a real bonus) and Edie is now into her third week of school in Stromness. Today, however, Savannah's first day at the Academy! - Eeeek!
Staying at the MiL's house has some advantages. I get to sit under REAL trees and watch the rooks going about life. I have my sketchbook to help keep me sane during the few moments I am not charging between the two houses in a borrowed VW Transporter (with no tax, test or windscreen!) loading and unloading all our earthly possessions. Having John – the lovebird – around is also nice. I make a few drawings of him when it's quiet, partly for practice and partly because it's a bit silly seking out subjects to draw when there's a very coomliant one in a cage three feet away!
It takes six days to do the removal AND I'm working for the RSPB at the same time. I have never been so utterly sh*gged-out!
And, because Helen has been such a darling allowing us to rent the house (otherwise we would be still moving our stuff around Orkney) I offered to do her a painting to go with the one she commissioned last year. Sitting on the pier behind my telescope, can of lager in hand and sketchbook at the ready, a pair of red-throated divers cruised into view. They stayed for well over an hour and made excellent models for a few sheets of drawings. As they slid out of view I hurried inside and made an immediate watercolour of the pair. I'll send the finished picture to Helen tomorrow. The whole thing has a nicely wholesome feel to it.
And this story has a happy ending. We totally adore the new house and living in The Burgh of Stromness – Orkney's second largest settlement (2000 souls – a village really!) offers the opportunity to get my work out to a slightly wider public. There are common and Arctic terns fishing in front of the house, eiders, red-brested mergansers, shags and cormorants floating by, red-throated divers crackilng their nuptuals in broad daylight and, last year at this time, a pod of seven orcas just happened to make an appearance just off our pier, much to the delight of the human inhabitants of Stromness – not so the local Grey seal colony!
The kids seem at ease with the whole thing and I can walk to the pub(s)!!!
See you later . . .